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Oh, well, back to the drawing boards. Restored the old template.

On a different note, I won’t be near a computer for the next week or so. I wish everyone a joyous Thanksgiving. See you in December.

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Canadian official called Bush ‘a moron’

‘An offhand comment by a senior member of the Chrétien government may have a lasting effect on relations between Ottawa and Washington. A top aide to the prime minister has been quoted as referring to U.S. President George W. Bush as “a moron.”

The disparaging comment from Chrétien’s inner circle has shaken the Prime Minister’s Office. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was forced to say on Thursday that President Bush is “a friend of mine. He’s not a moron at all.” ‘ CBC

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Help Stop Chicken McAntibiotics!

Take Action: “CSPI has asked McDonald’s to change its current chicken-buying practices that contribute to the unnecessary use of millions of pounds of antibiotics each year. McDonald’s has not taken a stand. Urge McDonald’s CEO Jack Greenberg to protect the public’s health and to stop selling chicken McAntibiotics!” Center for Science in the Public Interest

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Improved?

Is FmH loading faster tonight? Is it laid out all right? I did a rewrite of the template and almost, almost, succeeded in table-less CSS-based layout. It worked fine in Mozilla but, on the off-chance, I checked with IE6 (both under WinXP) and my header layout didn’t work. So there’s one little table up there until I can tweak it further. Of course, I’d prefer if you would all switch to Mozilla for me instead… Please let me know if the page doesn’t sit right in whatever browser you’re using, especially if you’re operating under a different OS. Any CSS gurus care to look at my template and offer any tweaks?

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ACME

The Action Coalition for Media Education:

ACME is a coalition of teachers, scholars, students, journalists, public health advocates and community organizers who believe that today’s media system is profoundly undemocratic.

The Framers of the U.S. Constitution gave special privileges and protections to the media—via subsidies and free speech laws—due to the media’s critical role in maintaining an open and robust democratic culture.

Many citizens—including journalists and media professionals—believe that today’s media system is failing our democracy in numerous ways:

  • With the media owned by some of the world’s most powerful corporations, independent and in-depth coverage of how power is exercised is rare (e.g., the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the digital spectrum give-away). With a truly democratic media, in-depth coverage of how power is exercised would be the norm, not the exception.
  • Sound-bite journalism and over-reliance on ‘official sources’ ensure that only a very narrow range of voices and perspectives is heard. These practices thus ensure that the interests of economic and political elites are largely unexamined and unchallenged. (e.g. the absence of Ralph Nader, Jim Hightower, labor voices, etc)
  • A media system dominated by advertising revenue pays attention to audiences favored by advertisers. As a result, poor and working-class citizens are largely ignored, unless they are subjects of crime or catastrophe.
  • A media system dominated by entertainment values trivializes achievement by its focus on celebrity, the sensational, and the superficial.
  • A media system obsessed with high-consumption lifestyles promotes behaviors that are harmful to the public health and to the health of the planet.

These weaknesses are understood consciously or intuitively by many citizens. The goal of ACME is to raise this growing awareness to a threshold of action in order to bring about democratic media reforms, including the creation of alternative media that are non-commercial, locally-controlled and locally-accountable.

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“You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I

suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an

up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream — the maximum of individual

freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.

Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would

sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path.”

Ronald Reagan, October 27, 1964 [via Dave Farber’s IP mailing list]
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Higher Superstition Revisited:

An interview with Norman Levitt: “Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt’s book Higher Superstition appeared in 1994, rattled a good many cages, and prompted the Sokal Hoax. The book describes a bizarre situation in American universities in which academics in various (mostly new-minted) fields such as Cultural Studies, Literary Theory, and Science Studies, plus a few more familiar ones such as Sociology, Comparative Literature and the like, make a career of writing about science without taking the trouble to know anything about it. Gross and Levitt have a good deal of fun exposing the absurd mistakes perpetrated by people who rhapsodise about quantum mechanics and chaos theory without having the faintest idea what they’re talking about.” butterfiles and wheels

Also at butterflies and wheels (“fighting fashionable nonsense”), the Fashionable Dictionary: “Your guide to the language of pseudoscience and fashionable nonsense. Written by woolly-thinkers for woolly thinkers. A must read for post-modernists, dialectical biologists, Gaia theorists and Freudians.”

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The Unconvincing Case for War

Robert Kuttner considers ‘the best the hawks have to offer’ and finds they still come up short. Rafe Colburn has also written a recent admiring piece in rc3 about one of the participants in the TAP-sponsored debate which Kuttner reviews here — Kenneth Pollack, “a former CIA analyst, National Security Council staffer under Clinton and author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, whose central tenet is that Iraq will acquire nuclear weapons and will not hesitate to use them, but that “the United States should not go it alone; it should have a clear plan for the reconstruction of Iraq, and the war should be about geopolitical security, not about oil.” However, I agree with Kuttner’s and others’ objection, essentially, that ‘what we are facing in Iraq will be George Bush’s war, not Ken Pollack’s war.’

US unilateralism and hegemonist aspirations, the lack of investment in ‘nation-building’ , the likely exploitaiton of Iraqi oil as the spoils of war, the danger of further radicalizing Islamic anti-Americans, and the dangerous precedent embodied in The-Only-Superpower®’s adopting a preemptive first strike policy are about as likely to be precluded by more thoughtful hawks as by opponents of the war.

But the mother of all issues here is whether Saddam Hussein really would use nuclear weapons. On this point, Pollack makes dire assumptions but doesn’t prove his case. On the contrary, he concedes in his book that in the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was deterred from using weapons of mass destruction and notes, “As long as some form of sanctions remains on Iraq, Baghdad’s ability to use any of its weapons of mass destruction as elements of Iraq’s foreign policy will be constrained. … If Saddam believes his regime is threatened, of course, all bets are off.” In other words, all this war talk makes an insane action by Baghdad more likely, not less. The American Prospect

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The Perils of Going Solo:

Social rejection has a host of behavioral consequences, none of them good. The school shooting epidemic has revived interest in psychological research into the effects of social rejection. The assumption had been that its negative behavioral consequences, such as extreme aggression, were mediated by the negative emotions triggered by rejection. A new series of studies by Case Western Reserve psychologist Roy Baumeister, presented at the American Psychological Association’s 2002 annual meeting in Chicago, claims to demonstrate that “while social rejection does have powerful effects on behavior, those effects are unlikely to be mediated by emotion.” Without the benefits of belonging, self-regulation of antisocial impulses seems to fall apart directly, he asserts. “Social exclusion undermines the basis for these sacrifices–it ceases to be worth it. The whole purpose of controlling yourself, behaving appropriately and making sacrifices is defeated. And so behavior may become impulsive, chaotic, selfish, disorganized and even destructive.” Reading the news coverage of these findings does not make it immediately clear how his study designs showed that the consequences were not mediated by the negative emotional effects of rejection. It certainly seems, however, to be consistent with Baumeister’s earlier work on violent offenders, which focused on the role their violent actions played in the maintenance and expression of fragile narcissism and asserted that, by and large, they did not suffer from low self-esteem. Here’s “Violent Pride”, a renowned 2001 Scientific American article summarizing his thesis. I have from time to time posted to FmH on this theme, and have long been interested in the worrisome interrelationship between the degradation of social connectedness and community, the culture of narcissism, and violent disinhibition.

Related: Beyond Anger: Studying the Subconscious Nature of Rage: Dr Richard Friedman, writing in the New York Times, reviews the evidence “disproving the common assumption that we have to understand something consciously before we can have feelings about it. In fact, …emotions can be rapidly processed by limbic brain networks that operate outside consciousness.” It has long been known in animal behavior studies that aggression comes in two varieties mediated by different brain pathways — “affective” aggression, with physiological arousal, usually a defensive response to threat; and “instrumental” or “predatory” aggression without affective arousal. Friedman discusses evidence supporting the notion, which I have long assumed, that a similar distinction holds in humans as well:

An intriguing clue to how the brain may process rage comes from a recent brain imaging study of convicted murderers. Using a PET scan, which measures glucose metabolism in neurons, Dr. Adrian Raine at the University of Southern California, compared a group of impulsive murderers with premeditative murderers.

In this preliminary study, yet to be replicated, he found that impulsive murderers had significantly lower activity in the prefrontal cortex than premeditative murderers.

Those who committed planned murder had equivalent prefrontal cortical activity to the normal subjects in a control group.

The prefrontal cortex, a brain region just behind the eyes, serves an executive function, integrating information and inhibiting emotional impulses that arise from deeper brain centers like the limbic system. So it may be that violent impulsive murderers are less able to resist their own impulses. Cold-blooded killers, in contrast, are as able as other people to control their violent impulses; they just choose not to.

We have long known that prefrontal functioning can be compromised by organic factors such as lesions, traumatic injury, metabolic or toxic factors, or developmental abnormalities in the ‘bad brain’, leading to an ‘impulse disorder’. I had long assumed that inhibition could similarly be compromised by motivational factors, such as the reduced social payoffs available to the socially excluded. In a sense, inhibitory capacities may atrophy if there are insufficient incentives to exercise them. But, if Baumeister’s new work is correct, the interaction between threat, rage and insufficient motivation to inhibit it may not be the operative factors at all in Columbine-like massacres.

And what is at play in purposeful terrorist violence? Someone has clearly been interested in finding out:

Hunt for Red Army Faction’s vanished organs:

The brains of Germany’s most notorious far-left urban guerrillas were taken away to be examined by scientists, secretly preserved in formaldehyde for a quarter of a century – and have now mostly vanished without trace.

The bizarre story of the ‘terrorists’ brains’ is one that could have come from the pen of Mel Brooks or Joe Orton.

But it also carries echoes of some of 19th century Germany’s weirder medical experiments.

Central to the affair is a clandestine attempt to show that anti-social behaviour is caused by physical abnormality.

The news magazine Der Spiegel reported yesterday that the brains of three prominent Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorists who died in 1977 – Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe – had all been stored in jars in the university clinic of Tübingen at the time of their deaths. Guardian UK

Finally, Cults of hatred: “Panelists at a convention session on hatred asked APA to form a task force to investigate mind control among destructive cults.”

“Extreme influence [such as mind control and cults] has remained dormant in the field of psychology,” Alan W. Scheflin, professor of law at Santa Clara University, told the audience.

Mind control, or “brainwashing” as it’s commonly referred to by the media, is often viewed by many psychologists as science fiction. However, panelists stressed that mind control is being used by cults to recruit and maintain followers and can have dangerous and lasting psychological consequences.

Cults that use mind-control techniques “have been able to do so with impunity, and the people who are victims of these techniques get no treatment,” Scheflin said.

In fact, psychologists who do treat someone claiming to be a mind-control victim from a destructive cult might face a malpractice action. “There are no legitimate treatments that are scientifically validated that appear in peer review journals, although they are effective clinically,” Scheflin said. “Therefore, they are vulnerable to challenge in the courts. That has to stop. There is no reason why people who are true victims of mind control or people who think they are victims and are wrong should not receive treatment when they need it or want it.” APA Monitor

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Solaris: A New Dawn for Sci-Fi?

“The online community of sci-fi fans can’t quite agree on what they think of Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris, an upcoming remake of an obscure but treasured Russian film. Some have high hopes. … But many purists dread the new Solaris, which stars George Clooney and will be released Nov. 27. They worry that Soderbergh will trample on two sacred sci-fi texts: the 1961 novel by Stanislaw Lem and the 1971 film by Andrei Tarkovsky.” Wired Even though I am a big fan of the Tarkovsky film, I’m looking forward to this. I’m just not expecting it to be a remake.

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Harvard Law plan on speech causes stir

‘A Harvard Law School committee announced plans yesterday to draft a speech code that would ban harassing, offensive language from the classroom, a highly unusual step for a law school and a move that runs counter to a national trend against interfering with campus speech.

Last night, the proposed code set off such a furious debate at an extraordinary campus ”town meeting” that some committee members and the law school dean said afterward that they were deeply uneasy with the idea.’ The fractious campus, home of many fierce First Amendment champions, has been rocked by several racial incidents. The Committee on Healthy Diversity, which has been the administration’s major response to the racial tension, is the source of the proposal for a code of speech. Boston Globe

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ALICE Bot-off:

“The A.L.I.C.E Bot is a conversation emulating bot developed by Richard Wallace. The bot has won the Loebner Prize in both 2000 and 2001. You can talk to A.L.I.C.E yourself to see its chat capabilities, quite remarkable.

We thought it would be a great idea to hook up two instances of the A.L.I.C.E chat bot to each other… The results are amusing, you can see them below.

To begin with the characters of this dialog argue about who should be downloading who, and then it slowly descends into constant waffling until it finally reaches an unstoppable loop of junk messages…” nik [via blogdex] I laughed out loud reading the dialogue between the two ALICEs.

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Success of Cellphone Industry Hurts Service

“Americans’ use of cellphones has increased so quickly that wireless networks are becoming overloaded, causing a growing number of customers to complain about calls that are inaudible or are cut off or are never connected in the first place.

And things could get worse before they get better, industry experts say, because even as cellphone companies are rolling out fancy features like digital photography and Internet-based games, they are hard-pressed to spend the money needed to improve basic service.” NY Times

I saw evidence of this firsthand this weekend, when I spent an inordinate length of time at the repair counter of my cellular provider’s local storefront while they replaced the broken antenna on my phone. They’ve gone to a new antenna design, the tech explained; this was presumably to stop them from breaking as readily. Unfortunately, it was also responsible for his 20-minute struggle to reassemble the phone after instaling the new antenna mount. That’s beside the point, though. While I was there, I listened to any number of cellular customers coming to the technical support counter complaining that their reception sounds like they’re underwater. There must be something in it for the support personnel to maintain the fiction that the network is okay, because they gamely examined every complainant’s phone, tweaking some and replacing others, and in any case reassuring everyone that everything will be fine.

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Fast-Flying Black Hole Yields Clues to Supernova Origin

[Artist's Conception]

“A nearby black hole is hurtling like a cannonball through the disk of our galaxy. The detection of this speed demon is the best evidence yet, some astronomers say, that stellar-mass black holes — those that are several times as massive as the Earth’s Sun — are created when a dying, massive star explodes in a violent supernova. The stellar-mass black hole, called GRO J1655-40, is streaking across space at a rate of 250,000 miles per hour, which is four times faster than the average velocity of the stars in that galactic neighborhood. At that speed, the black hole may have been hurled through space by a supernova blast….

GRO J1655-40 is the second so-called ‘microquasar’ discovered in our Galaxy. Microquasars are black holes of about the same mass as a star. They behave as scaled-down versions of much more massive black holes that are at the cores of extremely active galaxies, called quasars. Astronomers have known about the existence of stellar-mass black holes since the early 1970s. Their masses can range from 3.5 to approximately 15 times the mass of our Sun.” NASA STScI

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Decaf raises blood pressure, study says

“It may not be the caffeine in coffee that raises blood pressure because drinking decaffeinated coffee has a similar effect, Swiss researchers said yesterday.

In an article in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, the researchers said there may be another ingredient in coffee that causes blood pressure to rise. They found that coffee, caffeinated or not, raises the blood pressure of people who do not regularly drink it.” Boston Globe In habitual drinkers (of either caffeinated or decaf), the body adapts and the hypertensive effect is not sustained.

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Paul Muldoon Doesn’t Mind…

…Being Called a Difficult Poet

…Over the years he has won a fair share of praise. But he has also been criticized for being difficult…. He has also been criticized for being postmodern, a prankster, for engaging in madcap rhyming.

And now, with his ninth collection, Moy Sand and Gravel, published in October, it is happening again. Peter Davison, reviewing it in The New York Times Book Review, had high praise: the book “shimmers with play, the play of mind, the play of recondite information,” he wrote. But he complained that some of it was so difficult that one needed a dictionary, or perhaps an entire university library, to decipher it. “Postmodernism contents itself with allusion rather than conclusion,” Mr. Davison wrote. Some poems, he said, seem like “artificially enriched, overinformed doggerel.”

Here’s one interesting twist for the career of a ‘difficult’ poet to take — writing rock lyrics:

Mr. Muldoon has cast a wide net with his career. He has written lyrics with the rock musician Warren Zevon, including the title song of Mr. Zevon’s album “My Ride’s Here.” The lyrics have Mr. Muldoon’s distinctive postmodern lilt: “I was staying at the Marriott/with Jesus and John Wayne./I was waiting for a chariot./They were waiting for a train./The sky was full of carrion./`I’ll take the mazuma,’ said Jesus to Marion./`That’s the 3:10 to Yuma, my ride’s here.’ “

He and Mr. Zevon had also been working on a musical, “The Honey War,” about a dispute over gaming rights to an American Indian casino. Mr. Zevon recently announced that he has terminal cancer, and the project is on hold.

But that’s not the half of it:

Meanwhile Mr. Muldoon has written three operas, with music by Daron Hagen. Vera of Las Vegas is about two I.R.A. volunteers on the lam, a rogue immigration agent and a transvestite lap dancer. The opera has a mélange of styles: U2 vintage rock, jazz, and traditional Irish music. It will have two performances at Symphony Space in New York in June. Shining Brow, about Frank Lloyd Wright, will have a concert performance by the Buffalo Philharmonic next fall. A third opera is Bandanna, a re-retelling of Othello.

Mr. Muldoon is about to begin work on his next lecture, part of a series at Oxford, to be given in January. It is called “The End of the Poem.”

“It’s about how poems are ended,” he said. “It’s about the purpose of poetry in the world.”

And just what is that, Mr. Muldoon was asked? He had a ready answer. “The purpose of poetry,” he said, “is to help us to make sense of who we are.” NY Times

You’ll find some links to poems of Muldoon here. Try this:


Aisling (1983)


I was making my way home late one night
this summer, when I staggered
into a snow drift.

Her eyes spoke of a sloe-year,
her mouth a year of haws.

Was she Aurora, or the goddess Flora,
Artemidora, or Venus bright,
or Anorexia, who left
a lemon stain on my flannel sheet?

It's all much of a muchness.

In Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital
a kidney machine
supports the latest hunger-striker
to have called off his fast, a saline
drip into his bag of brine.

A lick and a promise. Cuckoo spittle.
I hand my sample to Doctor Maw.
She gives me back a confident All Clear.
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Harry Potter and the Unknown Future

What to do when your young cast hits puberty, one of your older stars dies, your original director drops out and the next promised book is going on a year overdue? …(Author JK) Rowling is still working on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is said to be longer than Goblet of Fire by a chapter and isn’t due to hit book stores until next year. Considering that, when Order of the Phoenix finally is published, it will be three years between books with two more still to come, by the time the seventh book is ready to be movie-fied, (actor Daniel) Radcliffe could be playing Dumbledore.” Yahoo! News

Apart from the problems of the actors’ aging, part of the charm of the series’ original conception, I thought, was the idea that, with a book a year each chronicling a year at Hogwarts, the characters and

the readers would both grow in realtime. That’s unfortunately shot to hell now, with two successive three-year intervals between the second and third and the third and fourth books. Not only will the readers grown up with Harry Potter, but it is beginning to look as if early readers like my son, with whom I’ve read each book aloud as it is released, will be too old to be interested in the conclusion of the series, if Rowling ever gets there.

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Library for Kids Goes Online

In more children’s literature news, “Imagine a library where books are sorted by color, or shape, or by how they make someone feel. This week, such a library is being made available for free to anyone with an Internet connection. The library, a joint project of the University of Maryland and the Internet Archive, is billed as the world’s largest digital library for children.

Every page of Alice in Wonderland and 200 other books have been scanned into the International Children’s Digital Library’s collection… Eventually, 10,000 texts from 100 cultures are planned. But for the project to be a success, kids will have to enjoy reading from computer screens.” NPR

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The Indiscreet Charm of the Bush-Nazi Web Conspiranoids

“At the crux of this saga are the Bushes’ real and imagined relationships with Nazi Germany. Rumors about Bush-Nazi connections began circulating in earnest in the pre-web days of the late 80s. The Philadelphia Enquirer discovered a number of German Nazi military officers working as low-level operatives for the Republican National Committee in the Bush presidential campaign of 1988. Rumors of a Bush-Nazi association were kept alive on alt.news conspiracy bulletin boards through the 90s. They gained critical mass during the 2000 election campaign, generating a bewildering variety of exposes, mythic narratives and shadow histories.

Below is just a sampling of some of the hottest current web forums dedicated to exploring Bush-Nazi ties…” The Thresher [via Red Rock Eaters]

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Leonid viewing update:

Skies over the U.S. east coast are clearing just in time for the meteor shower. You’ll begin being able to see meteors around 10 p.m. but peak viewing time here in the East will be around 5 a.m., when there might be 60-100 falling stars per minute.

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The scandal that wasn’t: “To read the headlines, you might think that the Yann Martel scandal is the latest example of a good author who done wrong. Ever since Martel won Britain’s prestigious Man Booker Prize last month for The Life of Pi, charges of plagiarism and intellectual theft have swirled around him. But as damning as the accusations may sound, the controversy reflects more poorly on those who have propagated it than on Martel. The brouhaha provides less insight into the ethics of literary creation than the way the media can spead false claims.” Raleigh News & Observer

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Can monosodium glutamate harm your eyesight?

Well, can it? “Last week, a study published in the New Scientist found that the consumption of monosodium glutamate (MSG), the flavour enhancer best known for its use in Chinese cooking, could damage your eyesight.

Scientists at Hirosaki University in Japan fed rats high levels of MSG, and concluded that it was responsible for destroying retinal cells, which, in turn, delayed nerve signals. It might, they said, explain why people in eastern Asia have a high rate of normal tension glaucoma – an eye disease that leads to blindness.

It sounds plausible, until you take a closer look at the facts.” Telegraph UK

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"Everyone not busy being born is busy dying…"

The headline in Salon reads: Vonnegut speech could be his last. What it is really about is this: “Kurt Vonnegut is spending a few hours in a building his grandfather designed, an event some say could be the last public appearance by one of American literature’s most revered writers.

Over the past several years, other speeches by the iconic author have been billed as grand finales, but Vonnegut continues to make occasional appearances. And at his age, the 80-year-old says any of them could be the last.” Pretty silly piece from the Associated Press, if you ask me. Should we begin covering every public appearance by an octogenarian with a headline saying it might be their last appearance?

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Weblogger sued by Scie***logy?

Diana Hsieh, a blogger in California, is being sued for suggesting that a link exists between Scie***logy and Front Sight, the largest firearms training facility in the country. Now another site is being threatened with legal action by Front Sight, because of negative comments posted by users on their message board. Light of Reason has some well-written entries about these events (search for “sci***ology” on their page).

Sci***ology can also be explored at David Touretzky’s site.” kuro5hin

Exposing myself to the wrath of the Scie***logists is one of the few things of which I’m truly afraid on the net, which is why (I hope) i’m cloaking myself from their searches with the asterisks. Their use of both recourse to legal relief and hacking tactics to cripple critics is well-established and nefarious. That being said, reading the material referenced above does not clearly make a direct link between Scie***logy and Front Sight, only that it is headed by someone who has taken courses with them. It is not clear that Scie***logy has directly initiated the lawsuits.

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Smarter Objects, Dumber Commonweal?

If you worry about the privacy and surveillance consequences of Internet cookies, auto toll transponders, supermarket chain “discount” cards, cell phone location tracking, etc., wait until you see Auto-ID Technology. Embedding ‘RFID Tag’ smart chips into everyday objects will allow them to be tracked by ubiquitous receivers linked to the Internet. Sure, shoplifting might become a thing of the past, but other implications are mindboggling. Start with the scenario depicted in Minority Report of stores recognizing returning customers with individualized sales and promotional strategies; go on to changing your health insurance rating because of the amount of alcohol or junkfood the database says you bought, or developing a risk profile based on the books and magazines you buy. What size database would the Carnivore or Echelon programs need to track five or six objects in the possession of every adult in the population to draw correlations that would allow continuous realtime tracking? I’m not enough of a computer wonk to know, but there are probably some of you out there who can do a back-of-the-envelope order-of-magnitude calculation. My guess is that it would indicate it is feasible.

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International Kaffeeklatsch:

The New Club NATO — Thomas Friedman: ‘I wonder how many lady F-15 pilots the Latvians have. Actually, I wonder how many Denmark or Spain have. I suspect the number is zero. And that is the main reason why I don’t object anymore to NATO being expanded. Because, as we already saw in the Afghan war, most NATO countries have fallen so far behind the U.S. in their defense spending and modernizations, they really can’t fight alongside of us anymore anyway. So what the heck, let’s invite everybody in.

“It’s now Club NATO,” said Michael Mandelbaum, author of the new book The Ideas That Conquered the World. “And Club NATO’s main purpose seems to be to act as a kind of support group and kaffeeklatsch for the newly admitted democracies of Eastern and Central Europe, which suffered under authoritarian rule throughout the cold war.” ‘ NY Times op-ed

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Stone loses cool over double Bill

“Former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman has threatened a US journalist with legal action because he shares the same name as the musician.

The star’s lawyers have ordered the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter to “cease and desist” writing under his birth name.

They said he could only use it if he added a disclaimer to everything he wrote clearly indicating he is not the same Bill Wyman who was a member of the Rolling Stones.

The legal threat came after the reporter penned an article about old Rolling Stones albums for the newspaper as part of its coverage of the band’s tour date in Atlanta.

The journalist has suggested using the byline “Not That Bill Wyman”. But he claims to have more right to use the name than the band’s former bassist, who quit the band a decade ago.

The American Wyman was born in 1961, three years before the Rolling Stone changed his name from William George Perks to Bill Wyman.” Melbourne Herald Sun

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Bin Laden is Back Now, as Defender of Iraq:

“The prospect of a US war against Iraq is already stirring anti-Western resentment in the Middle East, analysts say, and bin Laden’s message appears an attempt to capitalize on that sentiment. Though the Al Qaeda leader has little sympathy for the determinedly secular Saddam Hussein, the enemy of his enemy is his friend.” Christian Science Monitor.

Robert Fisk: Bin Laden is alive. There can be no doubt about it.

“But the questions remain: where on earth is he, and why has he resurfaced now? …It took only a brief flurry of phone calls to the Middle East and south-west Asia for the most impeccable sources to confirm that Osama bin Laden is alive and that it was his gravelly voice that threatens the West in the short monologue first transmitted by the Arab Al-Jazeera television channel…. As usual, “US intelligence” – the heroes of 11 September who heard about Arabs learning to fly but didn’t quite manage to tell us in time – came up with rubbish for the American media. It may be him. It’s probably him. The gravelly voice may mean he’s been hurt. He is speaking fast because he could have been wounded by the Americans.

Untrue…” Independent UK

Experts Say a bin Laden Impostor Could Fool a Lot of People:

“The government’s assessment so far that it cannot be absolutely certain that the audiotape broadcast on Tuesday was recorded by Osama bin Laden does not surprise experts in the field of voice authentication. The science of using computers and linguists to identify individuals by their speech has improved dramatically in the last several years, but still involves considerable guess work and speculation, the experts say.” NY Times

In past weeks Al Qaeda has relaunched itself,

a rebranding that presages a second phase in its war against the West. The clearest evidence for this shift is in three audiotapes that Al Qaeda has released since the beginning of October from its top leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.

Most analysts both inside and outside the government believe those tapes to be authentic. On them, the two Qaeda leaders call for a wider war against not only the United States but the West in general, with a wider range of targets. Al Qaeda has chosen war against all “the Crusaders,” not just Americans. The front can be anywhere.

This shift was precipitated by Al Qaeda’s loss of its headquarters in Afghanistan. Deprived of a physical base, Al Qaeda has morphed into something at once less centralized, more widely spread and more virtual than its previous incarnation.” NY Times

Brendan O’Neill: “…how do we account for bin Laden’s boasts about Bali and other attacks?

It seems to me that bin Laden is playing on Western fears about his supposedly powerful position. Rather than coherently or centrally organising such attacks, bin Laden seems to be drawing them together in an attempt to convince us that he has a mission, and the means to carry it out. And where is he getting his ideas? From our obsessive belief that he is behind everything bad that happens around the world and our notion that he is as strong as ever.

It wasn’t bin Laden who first linked the Moscow theatre siege with the Bali nightclub bombing with the Yemen tanker attack with everything else – it was Western politicians and commentators. And it wasn’t bin Laden who first said an attack on Iraq would cause al-Qaeda to rise up and take vengeance (why would he, when al-Qaeda and Iraq hate the sight of each other?) – again it was Western commentators and politicians who floated that idea.

And now bin Laden seems to be weaving these things together in an attempt to frighten us in the West. Our belief that bin Laden is behind everything, combined with our overly panicky reaction to every attack or whisper of an attack, has ended up giving bin Laden the mission he has always lacked. After all, al-Qaeda was the organisation that destroyed the World Trade Centre without ever claiming responsibility for it or explaining why they did it, such was their nihilism and lack of clear war objectives.”

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Condi Rice Gives War and Peace to Bush

…and Rubik’s Cube to Fish: “National security advisor Condoleezza Rice has presented President Bush with a copy of “War and Peace” to read before his recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Reportedly, it was her hope that the classic Tolstoy novel would give Bush a better insight into the complex Russian psyche, in preparation for delicate talks about nuclear arms reduction and the struggle against international terrorism.


Ms. Rice also left a Rubik’s Cube with her pet fish along with orders to complete it while she was away, and left a pad and pencil by the litter box hoping that her cat would come up with a formula for cold fusion.” The Specious Report [via Walker]

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“It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.”
You are Desiderius Erasmus!
You have great love for others and will do just about anything to show it to them. You are tolerant and avoid confrontations, so people generally are drawn to you. You are more quiet and reserved in front of strangers, but around some people you open up. When things get tough, you like to meditate alone. Unfortunately you often get things like “what a pansy,” or “you’re such a liberal.”

What theologian are you?
A creation of Henderson

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I have this uncanny experience with the Sunday New York Times Magazine. Invariably, a given Sunday has got either absolutely nothing that interests me in the least or it’s bursting with interesting pieces. This week it’s the latter:

  • Bring It All Back Home: “McVeigh, the sniper — the gulf-war vet seems ready to supplant his Vietnam counterpart. But then maybe the postmodern war has made unstable vets of us all.”
  • Fierce Entanglements: “For years, prompted by feminists, the strategy for dealing with domestic violence has been to get the men out of the women’s lives. But that’s not what all women want. How is anyone to understand the toughest love?”
  • Preschool Meds: “The first clinical trial examining the effects of generic Ritalin on 3- to 5-year-old subjects raises questions not only about the safety of the drug but also about the ethics of testing on ever younger brains.”
  • Who Needs the U.N. Security Council?: “1) The Bush administration, seeking international cover to do what it wants, and 2) everybody else, seeking to rein in the United States. Welcome to the New World Order.”
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Critique of pure comedy

Jefferson Chase, author of Inciting Laughter: The Development of `Jewish Humor’ in 19th Century German Culture: ‘Does the European Left have a humor problem? “The current issue of Merkur, a highbrow German journal devoted to ”European thought,” explores this ticklish subject. Roughly half of the contributors address the topic of humor and 9/11, and along with the inevitable analyses of American humor after the terrorist attacks, there are a number of well-written polemics excoriating what the authors view as a fundamental hostility within the Islamic world toward Western ideas of fun – and the European Left’s tendency to sidestep or blame the West for this hostility. It’s an intriguing idea, for which the Merkur has gotten good reviews. But can fun really be the crux of a clash of civilizations? Is it worth thinking about humor as the largely metaphoric war on terrorism threatens to prompt a decidedly literal one in the Middle East?


(…)


So here, offered in the spirit of H.L. Mencken, as opposed to Jean Baudrillard, is a bit of advice for opponents of the Bush administration’s stance toward Iraq. The next time you stage a protest or write an article, can the anti-imperialism rhetoric and simply ask, ”Is the United States making itself look ridiculous?” That is the question, I think, which would keep the focus squarely where it belongs: on the enemies of laughter and liberal society whom we have every justification to abhor, belittle, and subdue.” Boston Globe

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"Let’s Roll!"

You can trademark words but not meaning.: ‘…(A)s soon as a phrase — especially a heartfelt and serious one — is uttered, it immediately starts morphing into something else, typically a parodic version of itself. When’s the last time anyone uttered “Ich bin ein Berliner,” “I am not a crook,” or “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” as something other than a punch line? “Let’s roll!” is itself taking on an increasingly curious afterlife as the specifics of 9/11 recede from public memory.

Ironically, it’s the phrase’s official guardians who are transforming “Let’s roll!” into a generalized “lifestyle” statement. Earlier this year, the Todd M. Beamer Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Beamer’s widow, raised eyebrows when it trademarked the slogan, both to control its usage and to raise money for programs that “seek…to equip children experiencing family trauma to make heroic choices every day.” But the foundation has done more than just sell its own “Let’s roll!” paraphernalia as a fund raising tool. It’s pursued a series of odd licensing choices that strain the credulity of even the least cynical observers.’ Reason

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Bush Aides Consider Domestic Spy Agency:

“President Bush’s top national security advisers have begun discussing the creation of a new, domestic intelligence agency that would take over responsibility for counterterrorism spying and analysis from the FBI, according to U.S. government officials and intelligence experts.

The high-level debate reflects a widespread concern that the FBI has been unable to transform itself from a law enforcement agency into an intelligence-gathering unit able to detect and thwart terrorist plans in the United States. The FBI has admitted it has not yet completed the cultural sea change necessary to turn its agents into spies, but the creation of a new agency is firmly opposed by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who has said he believes the bureau can do the job.” Washington Post

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R.I.P. ‘Sir’ Roland Hanna

Jazz Pianist and Composer Dies at 70 :



‘Roland Hanna, a versatile jazz pianist whose deft touch, lush harmonies and encyclopedic knowledge enabled him to fit comfortably in a wide range of musical contexts, died on Wednesday in Hackensack, N.J. He was 70 and lived in Liberty, N.Y… Mr. Hanna was, as John S. Wilson of The New York Times said in 1985, “an impeccably polished performer” who was “as much at home in turn-of-the-century ragtime as he is in the works of John Coltrane.”

Nor were his influences limited to jazz: his harmonically complex improvisations were also informed by his extensive classical training.’ I knew Hanna liked to be referred to as ‘Sir’, but just learned from the obituary that this was “not an affectation or a casually bestowed title like Duke or Count. He was knighted by the government of Liberia in 1970, in recognition of benefit concerts he had given there.” I hadn’t even known that Liberia confers titles of nobility.

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R.I.P. Eddie Bracken

Eddie Bracken, Who Acted in Sturges Comedies, Dies at 87. I am reminded of the need to go back to Preston Sturges’ oeuvre by seeing this obituary.

Perhaps his strongest roles in that era were in two stand-out Sturges films of 1944, “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” with Betty Hutton and “Hail the Conquering Hero.” In “Hero,” Sturges cast him as a young man rejected by the Marines because of his hay fever, but who, through confusion and misunderstanding, is welcomed back to his home town as a war hero. It was the kind of situation that had been exploited so effectively in the silent film era by Harold Lloyd, a comedian Mr. Bracken greatly admired. NY Times

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Well, whaddya know? Tom Daschle makes the most heavily publicized remarks to date from so senior an official about how the Administration may be failing at TWOT (the War-on-Terrorism®), and quick as a bunny the government announces a “spectacular” threat and the capture of a senior al Qaeda operative. Unfortunately, they can’t give those of us who might be a little, ummm, dubious any details. “Officials declined to identify him or where he was captured, but they did say he was one of the top dozen Qaeda operatives, and so was considered a significant catch.” NY Times [And pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. — FmH] Related: White House Defensive After Terror Warnings Arizona Republic

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Study Says a Protein May Be Better Than Cholesterol in Predicting Heart Disease Risk

“From 25 to 30 million healthy, middle-aged Americans are at far higher risk than they and their doctors understand them to be, because we’re not taking inflammatory factors into account.” ‘An inexpensive blood test for a protein linked to artery disease may be better than a cholesterol test at predicting a person’s risk for a heart attack or stroke, researchers are reporting today.

The test, for the substance, C-reactive protein, may help identify people who have an increased risk even though they do not have high cholesterol. About half of the people with heart disease have normal cholesterol levels, a finding that has led many researchers to suspect that other factors must play a role in cardiovascular disease.’ The large study, reported in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, showed that high CRP levels correlated much better with cardiovascular morbidity and mortality than the lipid studies on which we currently rely.

Many researchers think chronic inflammation plays a major part in artery disease, heart attacks and strokes. Inflammation inside arteries is thought to contribute to heart attacks and strokes by causing cholesterol deposits in the artery walls to rupture and bleed. Blood clots then form, blocking the vessels and cutting off the blood supply to portions of the heart or brain.

C-reactive protein, Dr. Topol said, “is a window into the process of arterial inflammation, a very important insight that we otherwise can’t get.”

Yet, it is unclear yet if lowering a concerning CRP level will decrease cardiovascular risks. NY Times

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Larry David, a Rough-Edged Cultural Touchstone

The show is an only slightly fictionalized version of Mr. David’s real life in Los Angeles. Most of the dialogue is improvised, adding a cinéma vérité flavor to the show.

As on “Seinfeld,” the NBC show Mr. David created with Jerry Seinfeld in 1990, Larry and his sidekicks are mostly idle, self-absorbed and argumentative. But this show is even more uncensored, veined with the pessimism, loony narcissism and political incorrectness that are at the core of Mr. David’s comedy…

Mr. David, 55, a former stand-up comic best known for lashing out at inattentive audiences, is now the critics’ darling, an auteur whose creativity has not yet reached its peak.

His comedy is stripped of all sentimentality, which is part of its subversive appeal. When Larry’s mother is dying, his father does not inform him, saying his mother didn’t want to “bother” him while he was shooting a film in New York with Mr. Scorsese. He is shocked, but quickly realizes he can use his mother’s death as an excuse to avoid bores, cancel a dinner party and persuade his wife to have sex. NY Times

The article suggests that Larry David’s growing popularity may be a coattails phenomenon, as the show follows The Sopranos in HBO’s Sunday evening schedule. I’ve seen this thing a few times and, interestingly, I think it shares something with the latter beyond a timeslot. While most of the critics writing about the attraction of The Sopranos take the obligatory moral stand at the outset that, of course, they don’t find the characters appealing, I think that the more complicated challenge of watching this show is that, for some (or many), Tony Soprano at least is a sympathetic character. [There; I’ve said it. — FmH] One can even relate to his venality. The viewer ‘s dissonant experience of principled abhorrence clashing with likeability makes for interesting viewing, and I have had a similar experience in finding Larry David appealingly, preposterously hilarious while his preoccupations and lifestyle empty and morally vacuous. I wouldn’t take the parallels too far (in case you want to quibble with me), but it struck me suddenly. [Now Seinfeld, on the other hand, which I’ll admit I only watched perhaps twice or three times in total, was empty and meaningless without any appealing characters, IMHO. And it wasn’t funny. — FmH] As a psychiatrist, much of my initial interest in The Sopranos arose from the well-depicted psychotherapy plotline interwoven into it. Wouldn’t it be interesting to be a fly on the wall in Larry David’s shrink’s office too?

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NY Plague Cases Test Health System

Two cases of plague at a New York City hospital turned out not to be bioterrorism, but they provided an opportunity to test how the city health system would handle an intentional attack.

The good news: Doctors say the system worked.

Hospital staff and health officials applied lessons from last year’s anthrax attacks to diagnose and treat the two patients quickly — and to prevent unnecessary public fear over the obscure disease.

The bubonic plague cases, diagnosed in a New Mexico couple who showed up at Beth Israel Medical Center on Nov. 5, were the first in New York City in at least a century.

“This was scary. Even the doctors had never seen a case,” said Dr. Beth Raucher, an epidemiologist at Beth Israel Medical Center, where the two patients were treated. “But everybody did what they had to do.” Reuters Health

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Fast-Food Customer Loses Appetite Over Toilets

“A customer in an international hamburger chain outlet in western Sweden lost his appetite when he discovered the restaurant’s toilet seats were being washed in its dishwasher alongside the kitchen utensils.

The man noticed on a visit to the bathroom in the restaurant in Arvika, Sweden, that all the toilet seats had been removed.

When he asked staff about the missing seats, an employee took them out of a dishwasher where they had been cleaned together with trays and kitchen utensils, the Swedish TT news agency reported on Thursday, quoting the regional newspaper…

The employee tried to reassure the customer by saying that the freshly washed toilet seat would be warm and pleasant to sit on.” Reuters Oddly Enough

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Follow Me Here turns three today

Thank you for continuing to afford me the opportunity to enlist your participation in my idiosyncratic version of reality for the past three years. It continues to be its own reward; I hope my kind readers continue to be stimulated, challenged, entertained, edified, outraged here. What do I want for a birthday present? Your suggestions about improvements you would like to see in FmH — either content or performance.

With respect to the latter, I know several people wrote me with pleasure about better loading and less browser choking when I temporarily resorted to a simpler template. You were probably disappointed when I reverted to my original design when Blogger was fixed and I was able to update again. You may recall that someone was kind enough to make an attempt several months ago at rewriting my template with CSS layout control without tables. This made a big difference in how fast FmH loads, but unfortunately we couldn’t iron out the bugs under some browsers. I do intend, sometime I have time, to have another stab at this problem. Hopefully, there’s enough here to continue to put up with the frustrations.

While I’m not looking for fame and fortune in the blogosphere, I do wonder why my referrer count tells me that readership of FmH has been plateaued at around 400 visits a day for the longest time. I know I should find a way to ask this question to the rest of the world which is not reading FmH instead of asking you, but I would welcome any thoughts as to why I seem to have hit such a ‘glass ceiling’ in readership. [And is that more like 400 people checking in once a day; 20 of you looking at FmH twenty times a day; or several thousand of you reading less than a few times a week?]

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Iraq War ‘Could Kill 500,000’

“A war against Iraq could kill half a million people, warns a new report by medical experts – and most would be civilians.

The report claims as many as 260,000 could die in the conflict and its three-month aftermath, with a further 200,000 at risk in the longer term from famine and disease. A civil war in Iraq could add another 20,000 deaths.

Collateral Damage is being published on Tuesday in 14 countries and has been compiled by Medact, an organisation of British health professionals. It comes as the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, is deciding how to respond to a series of deadlines on weapons inspections imposed by the United Nations.” New Scientist

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You Are a Suspect

William Safire wants you to know that, ‘If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you:


Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as “a virtual, centralized grand database.”


To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you — passport application, driver’s license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance — and you have the supersnoop’s dream: a “Total Information Awareness” about every U.S. citizen.


This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the unprecedented power he seeks.’ NY Times op-ed

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Goody-Two-Brooms

David Edelstein: Sophomore year at Hogwarts

“As I sat through this sequel — which is more entertaining than the first film but still two hours and 40 minutes — with no bathroom breaks, Mom and Dad — I passed the time wondering if AOL Time Warner had thought to protect its investment with computer simulations of Radcliffe, Emma Watson (Hermione), and Rupert Grint (Ron) over the next decade. What will these tykes look like on the other side of the Great Adolescent Divide? For a lot of child actors, the early teens aren’t pretty: Those marvelous features have a tendency to grow at different rates. (Even the comeliest kids have weird stuff happen to them. Remember when all you could register on the face of Brooke Shields was her new Frankenstein brow?) Given the billions at stake, is someone at the studio monitoring these kids’ hormones? Are there dermatologists on call night and day? We’re talking six sequels, folks. A movie about the care and feeding of the child stars of Harry Potter would be more entertaining than the thing itself. It would have some real life in it.” Slate

Also: Stephanie Zacharek: The Trouble with Harry: “Despite terrific special effects and funnier gags, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets finds a way to make J.K. Rowling’s marvelous series into a deadly bore.” Salon

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Thaiware:

Anti-MAL — this utility from Thailand reputedly generates a high-pitched sound that will repel insects from your computer. Do you need this? Download at your own risk, of course. [Do any Followers read Thai?]

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How to Break the American Trance

From a speech given by 92-year-old Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who walked across the U.S. in 1999-2000 for campaign finance reform:

“If we Americans are split into two meaningful camps, it is not conservative versus liberal. The two camps are these: the politically awake and the hypnotized — hypnotized by television and other mass media, whose overpaid Svengalis dangle the swinging medallions of packaged candidates and oft-told lies. It is all done to politically prolong the open season on us — open season indeed, as the billionaire takeover artists bag their catch for the day. And in their bags are our freedoms, our leisure, our health care futures, our old age security, our family time, our village life, our family-owned businesses on Main Street, the middle class itself, and our position of honor and peaceful leadership in the world.” AlterNet [via wood s lot]

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Katherine Van Wormer:

George W. Bush, ‘Dry Drunk’? [Katherine van Wormer is a Friend (Quaker), Professor of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa, and co-author of the recent Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective (2002).]

‘Ordinarily I would not use this term. But when I came across the article ‘ “Dry Drunk” — Is Bush Making a Cry for Help?’ in American Politics Journal by Alan Bisbort, I was ready to concede … in the case of George W. Bush, the phrase may be quite apt.’ Interactivist Info Exchange [via wood s lot]

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Iraq Accepts United Nations Resolution:

Weapons Inspectors Leave for Baghdad on Monday NY Times. Since the “weapons of mass destruction” issue, however, is only a pretext for the Bush Administration’s planned prosecution of this war for its broader, insidious geopolitical objectives (Roger Trilling, Village Voice)

(as well as Bush’s emotional needs), Iraq’s efforts will be construed as provocative noncompliance regardless of the situation the weapons inspectors encounter on the ground. Going to the UN and deferring until the return of the inspectors was an inconvenience necessitated by the degree of domestic opposition (notably, that of the uniformed military) and international resistance, but will not make a war any less likely… And, of course, the purported bin Laden tape

(NY Times) serves as a bellwether of and a potential rallying point for the inflamed reaction we are likely to get from the Muslim world when we lay waste to the civilian Iraqi population and the country’s infrastructure.

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W. and the Boy Genius:

How Karl Rove’s ‘winner-take-all’ strategy for the midterm elections did the trick; I lifted this link from boing boing, which liked the following paragraph about Rove’s two-way:

Through it all, Rove wore his war room on his belt’the postcard-size BlackBerry communicator that holds his unmatchable Rolodex as well as his e-mail system, through which he squirted orders and suggestions to campaign workers and lobbyists using only a few words. “It’s like haiku, “says a political operative who has been on the receiving end. During meetings’even ones with the President’Rove would constantly spin the BlackBerry’s dial and punch out text on its tiny keyboard. “Sometimes we’re in a meeting talking to each other and BlackBerrying each other at the same time, “says a colleague. At times Rove’s voltage got too hot even for all his outlets. He became known for breaking into song in midsentence. During games of gin rummy on Air Force One during Bush’s campaign swings, Rove was always the loudest one yelling, “Feed the monkey! “when it was his turn to pick up a card. (Bush played once, Rove says, and “whipped me.’)

But there’s plenty more there. Time

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P2P stars trade up to new gigs

“Having helped spark the file-trading revolution, some stars of the peer-to-peer networking world are swapping their original anarchistic philosophies in favor of capitalism. Napster co-founder Sean Parker–perhaps best known for writing some of the ill-fated company’s most legally damning memos–is launching a new company called Plaxo on Tuesday, focused on helping Microsoft Outlook users keep their address books up to date.” CNET.com

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Taking Us All for a Ryde:

Despite being found guilty of grand theft charges, actress Winona Ryder has vowed to find the real shoplifters.

“I cannot and will not rest until the real perpetrators of this crime are found. Despite the potentially damning video tape and the fact that I was arrested with the items on my person, I will find the people who framed me,” said Ryder, “especially if asked to do so by my director. Perhaps in a role as a girl who finds the real criminals in a film called… uh… Framers!”

“Even if I have to search from a prison cell, I’ll find some of the people who saw Little Women and Girl, Interrupted who believe I’m innocent,” continued Ryder. “And since I’m a celebrity, I will spearhead a campaign ensuring that in the future, celebrities will not be held liable for crimes unless they are felonies or federal offenses.”

E!, the entertainment network, plans on covering the Winona Ryder Search for Truth tour which kicks off after sentencing next month. Kato Kaelin will host the specials.

Police reported riots erupting in Beverly Hills. BBSpot [thanks, Walker, who suggested I include this in my “OJ Still Searching for Wife’s Killer” Dept.]

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"PTSlaveryD"??

Theory links slavery, stress disorder:

Mims, Reid, and Larry Higginbottom, another black social worker, recently taught a symposium at the Simmons Graduate School of Social Work and are writing a book about what they call ”post-traumatic slavery disorder” – a derivative of post-traumatic stress disorder. They are holding workshops to propose to fellow professionals that drug abuse, broken families, crime, and low educational attainment in segments of the black community can be directly linked to the trauma of slavery, and that ”black people as a whole are suffering from PTSD,” Mims said.

These Boston clinicians were not the first to note the lingering psychological effects of slavery. Harvard University psychiatrist Alvin F. Poussaint wrote in 2000 about ”posttraumatic slavery syndrome,” calling it ”a physiological risk for black people that is virtually unknown to white Americans.”

In a book Poussaint co-authored on black suicide, ”Lay My Burden Down,” he wrote: ”A culture of oppression, the by-product of this nation’s development, has taken a tremendous toll on the minds and bodies of black people.”

Now, Mims, Reid, and Higginbottom – none with backgrounds in academia – have taken it upon themselves to try to educate other mental health workers about their theory, and promote a curriculum and therapy based on the idea. They would like to see what they call ”PTSlaveryD” entered into diagnostic manuals. Boston Globe

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Wrong Car Torn Apart in Drill:

”It was a sedan when he parked it and two hours later, it was a convertible.” ‘Firefighters mistakenly ripped off the roof, doors, and steering wheel of a car the department thought was supposed to be used for a rescue drill on Friday morning. The black 1986 Honda Accord, however, was owned by Antonio Rocha…, who parked the car on a grassy lot behind the fire station… Two other cars slated for demolition as part of the Jaws of Life drill already were parked in that lot, where the department has been holding rescue exercises for years, according to (a fire dept. official)… Police and fire officials have been unable to locate Rocha at his… address. Rocha had parked his car, which had about 204,000 miles on the odometer, and walked to his workplace … up the road, according to police…’ Boston Globe

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Sites against parasites

Brian Livingston writes that ‘ millions of Windows users have unwittingly installed “parasites” when setting up music-sharing programs or other free marketing gimmicks. Some parasite programs harvest fake sales commissions from e-commerce sites. They can also make your PC unreliable and crash-prone.’ InfoWorld

He points us to a British website developer named Andrew Clover at whose site you can test your computer for dozens of different parasite programs

. Here’s a Google parasitology search to take you further. Perhaps the most informative and useful site I found is Nasty Secret.

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No Child Left Unrecruited:

Buried deep within the 670-page No Child Left Behind educational act is a provision not only requiring public secondary schools to allow military recruiters access to their facilities but forcing them to provide contact information on every registered student or face a cutoff in federal funding. ‘Recruiters are up-front about their plans to use school lists to aggressively pursue students through mailings, phone calls, and personal visits — even if parents object. “The only thing that will get us to stop contacting the family is if they call their congressman,” says Major Johannes Paraan, head U.S. Army recruiter for Vermont and northeastern New York. “Or maybe if the kid died, we’ll take them off our list.” ‘ Mother Jones

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Gadget Overload Relief in Sight

A cure for wireless gadget overload may not be far off.

It’s called software defined radio; a technology that replaces analog radio circuitry with digitally generated samples of radio waveforms.


This week, wireless technology makers will convene in San Diego to demonstrate SDR, which could hold the key to developing a single standard for a myriad of portable devices.


By replacing the custom-designed, single-purpose transmitter and receiver electronics inside today’s wireless gadgets with software running on a CPU chip, SDR developers hope to unlock new opportunities for wireless communications.” Wired

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"… a tragic but isolated accident…"

Patient dies in robot-aided surgery:

“An experienced doctor looking at a three-dimensional computer screen manipulated a robot with three mechanical arms used to cut blood vessels and remove a cancerous kidney from Al Greenway, Plant High School teacher.

The procedure is considered less invasive than traditional surgery and is supposed to decrease a patient’s bleeding, pain and recovery time.

But something went terribly wrong.

During the surgery, Greenway’s aorta and another blood vessel supplying the kidney were accidentally cut. No one noticed for about 90 minutes. Two days later, on Oct. 13, Greenway died of complications from the surgery.” St Petersburg Times

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CIA Killed U.S. Citizen In Yemen Missile Strike

Action’s Legality, Effectiveness Questioned:

“Hijazi’s citizenship highlights the different approaches pursued simultaneously by the administration as it wages its war on terror. In some cases since Sept. 11, American citizens have been arrested and afforded traditional legal rights in the criminal justice system. In others, they have been captured and held indefinitely in military brigs as “enemy combatants.” Now, at least in Hijazi’s case, a citizen has been killed in a covert military action.


What’s more, Hijazi was killed in a country considered at peace with the United States, although U.S. officials say the strike was carried out with the approval and cooperation of Yemen’s government.


It was unclear whether the CIA operatives who fired the missile knew that an American citizen was among their targets. It also was unclear whether that would have made any difference.” CommonDreams

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“There are seven sins in the world: wealth without work, pleasure without

conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science

without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without

principle.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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Bloodthirsty Fools:

Eric Blair, at Warblogger Watch, notes that

Bill Quick is running a most bloodthirsty warblog contest. When I first started up WBW I would have been all over it, but now it just kind of seems desperate and sad. Here are a few highlights, my last word, unless one of these nuts goes postal and starts picking off brown people with a Bushmaster.”

Desperate and sad it may be, but I’m afraid it increasingly represents the mainstream. Reading some of the venom these pathetic ignorants are spouting serves to help us remember what kind of country we live in, if waking up painted blue all over last Wednesday morning hasn’t already done it for you.


Actually, I’m of two minds what significance to place on all this. As FmH readers know, it is a longstanding preoccupation of mine to worry about exactly what influence thoughtful webloggers opposed to the madness can have. Usually it seems to me we fill a universe with discourse, but that the universe is one of likeminded souls only preaching to the converted. This often discourages me (and inspires a shower of supportive comments in my mailbox). But, on the other hand, one of my responses to the fact that I live in a country whose denizens are over and over anally raped, played for fools and convinced to love it enough to beg for more from our elected despots — and then go on in braindead support of the export of our hypocritical tyranny and pillage on the rest of the world — has been to dissociate myself. When people tell me my words can have an influence in the broader field of public discourse, not only am I often dubious but, usually, I’m not sure I want that. You can’t argue about political persuasion any more than you can about religion —indeed, it is usually faith- rather than fact-based! It takes so much energy to debate with deluded ranters; is it worth it?

Why not just live in a different country? In a way, ever since the moral bankruptcy of the Vietnam War, I’ve taken seriously the jeering jingoist yahoos who taunted us to “love it or leave it.” I left. Not literally, not geographically, but I have never felt I lived in America as constituted, not their America. This was apolitical whenever possible, politically involved when an issue of peace, justice or survival made it morally impossible to ignore it. Actually, maybe I live elsewhere geographically too; I’ve always settled in places which are pockets of resistance, university towns, for most of my adult life The Republic of Cambridge or its environs (I’m across the river from there now, but I still have my office there), and could not see relocating anywhere in the Vast Wasteland which still seems painful whenever it is necessary to venture out into it. At least, unlike my aloof beleaguered isolationism of the Reagan-Bush era, the pockets of self-imposed exile in these days of renewed tyranny and permanent war have expanded into cyberspace to assume a continuity and community. It’s a little bit easier to inhabit this America. Let’s hope, with the coming storm, it remains a place of refuge.

Addendum: Two thoughtful responses from FmH readers ensued. One wrote that we must truly contend with a consistently conservative electorate:

The disheartening thing, for those of us on the Left, is how little has changed. Plus ca change, indeed. But while knowledge of the past is key to understanding the future, it is true too that the future is not the past. There is a new reality, a reality that threatens not just Democrats, but democracy.

Florida in 2000 was the paradigm, for our new unpleasant political reality. Florida, and America, is divided right down the middle, between two groups, neither of which care to listen to, much less respect, the other. Democracy has little to say about this state of affairs. It is difficult to see how the rights of the minority are to be respected in this new world, and the truth is, then, that our democracy itself has broken down. The New America is a place where Republicans and Democrats have become the Hatfields and the McCoys, sniping at each other from entrenched positions. Both feeling, with some justification, that they represent the real America, and the others are merely usurpers. This sense of ownership, and the disdain for those who disagree with us that stems from it, that we can hear any day on Fox or talk radio, is going to get worse, before it gets better. It already has. It just did.

Another reader (and Cambridge resident) worries that:

The problem with abandoning the country, especially intellectually, is that you are, in effect, surrendering. …(T)o fail to assert your patriotism, your love of the freedoms that this country gives you, is to allow the right wing to assert that they, and only they, are patriots.

…When the principled left gives up on patriotism, it makes patriotism seem ever more not just the last refuge of the scoundrel, but his natural habitat. This is just not so! America can be many things, and it can be good things, and if you want to have any influence at all, you’ll have to start by reminding yourself that our flag represents “liberty and justice for all” at least as much as it represents military might and manifest destiny.

And, finally, there’s this, that just begs to be posted in its entirety, from the comments to a similar post I put up on Warblogger Watch:

Eliot, that preening little tirade was a classic case-study in the shakey, pretended contempt of the ineffectual left for the big, confusing and scary world outside it’s stale little Trotskist horizon.

It was all there, good lord, like ticking off a list, the self-righteous withdrawal from debate with the excuse of being too good for the heathen mob, the ignorant refusal to aknowledge the validity of other people’s opinions, the timid refusal to engage masquerading as world-weary intellectual superiority, mixed in with childish accusations and insults. Yep, that’s the lot.

Oh and what do you know, you’re some kind of academic? Didn’t see that coming.

You know, the only thing that tempers my disgust with you mental insects is the deep personal satisfaction I derive at the roadkill the real world has made of all your retarded theories and movements. Seen Che Guevara lately, dipshits? Haha!

I’m sorry but you need to learn some new tunes, we had to kill all your widdle commie fwends, now worker’s paradise go bye bye.

You might end up having to actually work for a living, though the ambitious, talented people are going to kick your ass. Maybe better to withdraw into some taxpayer funded academic backwater, retreat from the marketplace of ideas that has so bruised and humiliated your kind. Then you can pontificate from on high while the rest of us ignore you and get on with our lives.

I’m pretty sure you’ll find a way to suck blood from the public purse, just keep telling yourself how much better you are than your productive fellow citizens. Those poor sheep don’t know what they got coming… any day now… goddamn them.. make em all sorry…

Hey Elliot, has it ever crossed your mind we might actually be right?

Oh nevermind. Off you go.

It’s amazing how wrong he gets it — how he concludes that I’m essentially a welfare cheat is a breathtaking leap of faith that is utterly beyond me. And amazing how self-referential his post is. Pretty well hoist on his own petard, ay? [And, no, thankfully, it never crossed my mind that you might be right. Who was it who said that the contempt of the contemptible is a compliment? I don’t make my living as an academic but, forced to choose between them and the anti-intellectualism of this fellow and his cronies, it is no contest…]

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Nancy Pelosi Set To Head House Dems

Pelosi seems to have effectively jockeyed for position against her contenders, and her most formidable opponent Rep. Martin Frost (D.-TX) has just bowed out and endorsed her. CBS Although Frost contended in his campaign that Pelosi’s politics are too far to the left and she would not have any appeal with the middle-of-the-road majority whose attention he feels the Democrats have to win, the converse is more likely; the only hope for the party may be in an effective differentiation in platform from the Republicans that they have been unable to achieve in recent years. Perhaps, emboldened by the unprecedented midterm setbacks her party’s namby-pambyism has just engendered, Pelosi might steer her minority caucus toward an effective — dare we say principled? — opposition position. (Since the end of WWII, the Democrats have arguably been far more effective in the opposition than when in power.) In any case, she’s got to be an improvement on Dick Gephardt. But, we also have to get beyond platitudes about Democratic failure and contend with the fact that Dubya seems genuinely increasingly popular, although the most disingenuous President since Richard Nixon.

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Bloodthirsty Fools:

Eric Blair, at Warblogger Watch, notes that

Bill Quick is running a most bloodthirsty warblog contest. When I first started up WBW I would have been all over it, but now it just kind of seems desperate and sad. Here are a few highlights, my last word, unless one of these nuts goes postal and starts picking off brown people with a Bushmaster.”

Desperate and sad it may be, but I’m afraid it increasingly represents the mainstream. Reading some of the venom these pathetic ignorants are spouting serves to help us remember what kind of country we live in, if waking up painted blue all over last Wednesday morning hasn’t already done it for you.


Actually, I’m of two minds what significance to place on all this. As FmH readers know, it is a longstanding preoccupation of mine to worry about exactly what influence thoughtful webloggers opposed to the madness can have. Usually it seems to me we fill a universe with discourse, but that the universe is one of likeminded souls only preaching to the converted. This often discourages me (and inspires a shower of supportive comments in my mailbox). But, on the other hand, one of my responses to the fact that I live in a country whose denizens are over and over anally raped, played for fools and convinced to love it enough to beg for more from our elected despots — and then go on in braindead support of the export of our hypocritical tyranny and pillage on the rest of the world — has been to dissociate myself. When people tell me my words can have an influence in the broader field of public discourse, not only am I often dubious but, usually, I’m not sure I want that. You can’t argue about political persuasion any more than you can about religion —indeed, it is usually faith- rather than fact-based! It takes so much energy to debate with deluded ranters; is it worth it?

Why not just live in a different country? In a way, ever since the moral bankruptcy of the Vietnam War, I’ve taken seriously the jeering jingoist yahoos who taunted us to “love it or leave it.” I left. Not literally, not geographically, but I have never felt I lived in America as constituted, not their America. This was apolitical whenever possible, politically involved when an issue of peace, justice or survival made it morally impossible to ignore it. Actually, maybe I live elsewhere geographically too; I’ve always settled in places which are pockets of resistance, university towns, for most of my adult life The Republic of Cambridge or its environs (I’m across the river from there now, but I still have my office there), and could not see relocating anywhere in the Vast Wasteland which still seems painful whenever it is necessary to venture out into it. At least, unlike my aloof beleaguered isolationism of the Reagan-Bush era, the pockets of self-imposed exile in these days of renewed tyranny and permanent war have expanded into cyberspace to assume a continuity and community. It’s a little bit easier to inhabit this America. Let’s hope, with the coming storm, it remains a place of refuge.

Addendum: Two thoughtful responses from FmH readers ensued. One wrote that we must truly contend with a consistently conservative electorate:

The disheartening thing, for those of us on the Left, is how little has changed. Plus ca change, indeed. But while knowledge of the past is key to understanding the future, it is true too that the future is not the past. There is a new reality, a reality that threatens not just Democrats, but democracy.

Florida in 2000 was the paradigm, for our new unpleasant political reality. Florida, and America, is divided right down the middle, between two groups, neither of which care to listen to, much less respect, the other. Democracy has little to say about this state of affairs. It is difficult to see how the rights of the minority are to be respected in this new world, and the truth is, then, that our democracy itself has broken down. The New America is a place where Republicans and Democrats have become the Hatfields and the McCoys, sniping at each other from entrenched positions. Both feeling, with some justification, that they represent the real America, and the others are merely usurpers. This sense of ownership, and the disdain for those who disagree with us that stems from it, that we can hear any day on Fox or talk radio, is going to get worse, before it gets better. It already has. It just did.

Another reader (and Cambridge resident) worries that:

The problem with abandoning the country, especially intellectually, is that you are, in effect, surrendering. …(T)o fail to assert your patriotism, your love of the freedoms that this country gives you, is to allow the right wing to assert that they, and only they, are patriots.

…When the principled left gives up on patriotism, it makes patriotism seem ever more not just the last refuge of the scoundrel, but his natural habitat. This is just not so! America can be many things, and it can be good things, and if you want to have any influence at all, you’ll have to start by reminding yourself that our flag represents “liberty and justice for all” at least as much as it represents military might and manifest destiny.

And, finally, there’s this, that just begs to be posted in its entirety, from the comments to a similar post I put up on Warblogger Watch:

Eliot, that preening little tirade was a classic case-study in the shakey, pretended contempt of the ineffectual left for the big, confusing and scary world outside it’s stale little Trotskist horizon.

It was all there, good lord, like ticking off a list, the self-righteous withdrawal from debate with the excuse of being too good for the heathen mob, the ignorant refusal to aknowledge the validity of other people’s opinions, the timid refusal to engage masquerading as world-weary intellectual superiority, mixed in with childish accusations and insults. Yep, that’s the lot.

Oh and what do you know, you’re some kind of academic? Didn’t see that coming.

You know, the only thing that tempers my disgust with you mental insects is the deep personal satisfaction I derive at the roadkill the real world has made of all your retarded theories and movements. Seen Che Guevara lately, dipshits? Haha!

I’m sorry but you need to learn some new tunes, we had to kill all your widdle commie fwends, now worker’s paradise go bye bye.

You might end up having to actually work for a living, though the ambitious, talented people are going to kick your ass. Maybe better to withdraw into some taxpayer funded academic backwater, retreat from the marketplace of ideas that has so bruised and humiliated your kind. Then you can pontificate from on high while the rest of us ignore you and get on with our lives.

I’m pretty sure you’ll find a way to suck blood from the public purse, just keep telling yourself how much better you are than your productive fellow citizens. Those poor sheep don’t know what they got coming… any day now… goddamn them.. make em all sorry…

Hey Elliot, has it ever crossed your mind we might actually be right?

Oh nevermind. Off you go.

It’s amazing how wrong he gets it — how he concludes that I’m essentially a welfare cheat is a breathtaking leap of faith that is utterly beyond me. And amazing how self-referential his post is. Pretty well hoist on his own petard, ay? [And, no, thankfully, it never crossed my mind that you might be right. Who was it who said that the contempt of the contemptible is a compliment? I don’t make my living as an academic but, forced to choose between them and the anti-intellectualism of this fellow and his cronies, it is no contest…]

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IRA Hacks into Northern Irish Prison Computer System

“A new £7.5m Prison Service computer system may have to be axed – over fears an IRA mole has had access to it.

The upgraded system was launched earlier this year, and provides precise details of each prison officer’s shifts at Ulster’s two main jails – Maghaberry and Magilligan – for each day of the next year.

It allows prison service officers to access what days they are scheduled to work, and what times they are due to start and finish.

Now it is understood concerned prison bosses are considering scrapping the computer system, over fears that the Provisional IRA may know the work routines of every prison officer employed by the under-fire service.” Belfast Telegraph

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Bush’s Life of Deception:

Sam Parry:

“The Washington press corps has come grudgingly to the recognition that George W. Bush is “malleable” with the truth, as the Washington Post delicately put it. Pressing for war with Iraq, Bush has been exaggerating his case so much that even CIA analysts are complaining, as a number of newspapers have now reported.

But the underlying reality about Bush’s honesty is far worse. Throughout his adult life, Bush has dodged the truth along with personal responsibility for his actions. Indeed, a remarkable feature of his presidency is the gap between Bush’s public image as a straight-talking everyman and the behind-the-curtain Bush whose imperial impulse sometimes flashes into public view.” The Consortium

Eric Alterman:

Bush Lies, Media Swallows: ‘President Bush is a liar. There, I said it, but most of the mainstream media won’t. Liberal pundits Michael Kinsley, Paul Krugman and Richard Cohen have addressed the issue on the Op-Ed pages, but almost all news pages and network broadcasts pretend not to notice. In the one significant effort by a national daily to deal with Bush’s consistent pattern of mendacity, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank could not bring himself (or was not allowed) to utter the crucial words. Instead, readers were treated to such complicated linguistic circumlocutions as: Bush’s statements represented “embroidering key assertions” and were clearly “dubious, if not wrong.” The President’s “rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy,” he has “taken some liberties,” “omitted qualifiers” and “simply outpace[d] the facts.” But “Bush lied”? Never.’ The Nation [via Walker]

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For those of you wondering about the new look at FmH, it’s a mistake! My template got corrupted and Blogger is not letting me save a corrected version over the corrupted one. However, Blogger does let me choose one of its different, pre-canned templates instead. So this is temporary, until I can, with repeated attempts, succeed in saving my corrected template… Bear with me, all will be well again, I know….